WRAPUP 4-Esteves quits as head of Brazil's BTG Pactual amid graft probe

lunes 30 de noviembre de 2015 09:52 GYT

(Adds share performance, comments in paragraph 3)

By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Tatiana Bautzer

SAO PAULO Nov 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian financier André Esteves resigned as chief executive officer and chairman of Grupo BTG Pactual SA late on Sunday after he was jailed as part of a corruption probe rapidly ensnaring Latin America's largest independent investment bank.

Prosecutors are preparing to file charges against the billionaire dealmaker, whom they suspect, along with a senator, of trying to obstruct a long-running graft probe at state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras . Esteves, through his lawyer, has denied the allegations.

In a new twist to the nearly two-year probe, Brazilian newspapers said police found documents allegedly linking BTG Pactual to the payment of bribes to ruling coalition lawmakers. Shares plummeted in São Paulo, while bonds recovered slightly from their plunge last week.

It is the first time the bank, whose public face has for years been Esteves, was directly implicated in the bribery scandal. Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot used evidence and testimony from others under investigation to persuade the country's Supreme Court to extend Esteves' detention.

The documents said BTG Pactual paid 45 million reais ($11.7 million) to Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the lower house of Congress, in exchange for passing legislation favoring the bank, the newspapers said.

BTG Pactual denied the payments in a statement on Sunday and pledged to cooperate with authorities. A source familiar with the matter said the revelations and the extension of Esteves' detention convinced him and his business partners that he had to resign.

"It's hard to separate the bank's image from Esteves," said Paulo Petrassi, who oversees 600 million reais in assets at Leme Investimentos in Florianópolis, Brazil. "So far, the market seems to have given the bank the benefit of the doubt, but that may not necessarily last long."   Continuación...